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Rand Paul: Weak On Religious Liberty?

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Joanne Butler Contributor
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Is ‘social conservatism’ a ruse to lure the gullible into voting for certain Republicans? Exhibit A: Senator Rand Paul. In January 2016, I was in Des Moines for the candidate debate. Paul was on the ‘undercard’ bill; he trumpeted his social conservative bona fides and his commitment to liberty. Yet, he’s ignored or can’t be bothered with blocking the nomination of a person who has stated that sexual liberty wins over religious liberty.

The nominee is Ms. Chai Feldblum, an Obama appointee serving on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In December 2016, President Trump re-nominated her to third term, ending in 2023. Pay attention to that date.

Feldblum is a longtime activist for LGBTQ rights. But that’s not the problem.

What is the problem is how she ranks LGBTQ rights against religious liberty.

In other words, should a Lutheran Missouri Synod seminary (that accepts men only) be forced to accept a transsexual (woman to man)? What about conservative Jewish yeshivas and Catholic seminaries? Feldblum would say yes.

In 2006, in an interview with Maggie Gallagher, Feldblum opined on conflicts between religious liberty and what she called ‘sexual liberty’. Feldblum stated: “I’m having a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win.” She continued, “There can be conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty, but in almost all cases the sexual liberty should win because that’s the only way that the dignity of gay people can be affirmed in any realistic manner.”

Currently, there are two Republican nominees for commissioner slots; they have had Senate confirmation hearings. A third Republican Trump nominee had her confirmation hearing for the post of EEOC General Counsel on April 10. Notably, she dodged questions from Democrats about the EEOC enforcing LGBTQ rights.

Feldblum has not had a confirmation hearing. However, Lamar Alexander (R_TN), the Senate chairman of the relevant committee, could slip her confirmation inside an omnibus bill or similar. This would avoid a contentious nomination hearing.

Although Senator Mike Lee (R-ID) has indicated he will object to Feldblum’s nomination, a much more powerful action would be for Senator Rand Paul to object publically.

Like Senator Alexander, Senator Paul sits on the committee that has jurisdiction over Feldblum’s nomination.

A public statement from Senator Paul could deep-freeze this nomination. There would be no question of his social conservative credentials. And Senator Lamar Alexander would be on notice that a ‘midnight’ confirmation is unacceptable.

Further, Senator Paul’s statement would send a strong message to President Trump. In response, the President could ignore Paul (unlikely) or withdraw Feldblum’s nomination, and find a more acceptable person (Independent or Democrat) to fill the minority-side slot.

But Senator Paul is curiously silent about Feldblum, who, if confirmed would have a seat on the Commission until 2023. If a Democrat wins the 2020 election, Feldblum (the most senior Democrat commissioner) would have broad powers to limit religious liberty – using the power of the U.S. government to force religious institutions into expensive litigation.

Common sense indicates some institutions would lack the means to fight the U.S. government, and would cave to giving up their religious liberty. So far, this does not seem to concern Senator Paul, who prides himself as a defender of constitutional liberties.

However, his strong objection to the nomination of Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State appears to have pushed Pompeo to take a less aggressive stand regarding U.S. military actions overseas.

Based on assurances from Pompeo and President Trump, Senator Paul voted for Pompeo’s confirmation on April 23.

This is clear proof that Senator Paul can get the President’s attention, and shape the direction of Trump’s nominees – if he wants to.

So – is Senator Paul’s social conservatism, as I saw on that stage in Des Moines, just a pose? Was it a sop to get socially conservative Iowans to vote for him?

Are his inner views about religious liberty similar to Feldblum’s? Hopefully they’re not.

The confirmation clock is ticking. There is pressure to get the three Republican EEOC nominees confirmed. Some have argued that Feldblum’s nomination is the necessary ‘grease’ to get the Republicans a Senate floor vote.

Senator Paul strikes this writer as one who is no respecter of ‘necessary grease’ confirmations, or President Trump’s wishes (just ask Mike Pompeo).

Thus, why is he silent about a nominee who is on the record about using the power of the federal government to reduce our Constitutional religious liberties?

Is his support for Constitutional liberties limited to liberties he likes (e.g., gun ownership), while he ignores those he is less interested in (e.g., religious liberties)?

Over to you, Senator Paul.

Joanne Butler is a graduate of the Kennedy School at Harvard, was a professional staff member (Republican) at the House Ways and Means Committee, and served in President George W. Bush’s administration. The Ghanaian poet, Kwesi Brew, has described her as ‘vibrant.’


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.